Should You Have Different Strategies for Marketing and Sales?

The best agencies I work with understand something others don’t.  They know the difference between marketing and sales, approaching both very differently, which creates a huge impact to growth and revenue. 

What is that difference?

strategies for marketing and sales

Marketing is what your agency does to get customers to call you.  Sales is what you do once they call.

Marketing is Social Media, Networking, Content Marketing, Referral Generation, Beating the Bushes, Attending Clubs and Chambers, Setting up a booth at a local festival.

Marketing is the bull horn. Sales is the whisper.

Marketing is the lure.  Sales is the hook.

Why do these distinctions matter?

Listen to these example.  I have worked with agencies that have incredible sales people.  I have seen them sell.  When a customer is in front of them or on the phone, it is like magic.

They are likeable; they ask the right questions; they put the customer in a place of comfort and acceptance.  They demonstrate value and ask for the sale. The customer feels like the agent is buying the policy for them.  It’s amazing.

But they can’t get the phone to ring.  They don’t have enough leads.  Their close rates are really high, but can’t seem to talk to enough people.  The pipeline is always sparse.

On the other hand, I have seen some shops with incredible marketing.  Their internet presence is amazing.  Google loves them.  They have great storefront exposure.  The phone is always ringing, but their sales are not great.  They are not all warm and fuzzy, likeability is limited, closing a sale is awkward and difficult.

Both are separate skill sets, and both must be attended to with equal force.

So, what changes can you make to mimic the best agencies approach to marketing and sales?

1.  Create separate strategies & goals. 

Marketing:  Ask: Who is my ideal customer?  What can I do to  reach that person? Then begin molding your current marketing around that target.

Identify what marketing activities you are doing today, then match to your customer target.  For example: Social Media:  Is it hitting that target?  Content marketing: Are you answering the questions your target customer has?  Networking events:  Are you going place where you will find your customer?  Lead Generation: Are the leads you are buying bringing you your target?  Referral Marketing:  Are your referral sources sending you your target customer?

Sales:  Evaluate and Improve.  These examples should help you prime the pump.  What is my close rate?  Have someone evaluate your salespeople.  Work on areas that are weak.  Do role-playing.  If you are a sales manager, have friends do mystery shopping on your people.  Have your best producers, model good sales behavior.  Let customers evaluate you.  What did you do right and wrong in the sales process.

2.  Assign Marketing to a Specific Person.  One secret of larger businesses is that they will separate out these functions to different departments, because the skill set is different.  You can do the same in your agency.

Most agencies have sales people and service people, but very few have at least one marketing person.  The ones I know that do, write a lot more business.

This person is responsible for driving leads, developing referral relationships, social media, customer contests, outside events, etc. 

It works.

3.  Measure.  This is the only way you will know it is working.  This could be a complex spreadsheet of close rates, contacts, marketing projects.  Or it could be a whiteboard with a number of weekly sales and marketing efforts.  You must measure so you know where to improve and possibly where to spend money.

No matter what approach you take, see these two tasks as separate with differing strategies. It will allow you to create separate successful systems, and you will see constant improvement in your bottom line.

Be Productive,

Theron Mathis

Questions:  Does your business have different strategies for marketing and sales?  What are ways your approach differently that has helped drive growth?

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My Biggest Sales Mistakes I Want You To Avoid

sales mistakes to avoidI have been in sales most of my adult life, and have made every rookie mistake.  Unfortunately, I still find myself falling into bad patterns, and often have to slap myself back to reality. 

The great thing about recognizing mistakes is that once you see them, you can avoid them, and work to correct them.

Here is a list of frequent mistakes all salespeople, newbies and seasoned vets, make.

Now this list isn’t comprehensive, just my big bugaboos, tripping me up especially when I started, and hopefully these admissions of failure can help you along the sales journey.

  1. Not asking for the sale

This one is just tragic.  You spend money and time generating leads.  You spend hours cold-calling and finally find someone who will talk with you.  You do all the right things, building rapport, asking questions, finding solutions, having a competitive price, but you never ask to buy.

I’ve done it.  I guess fear causes it.  It seems silly to go through all that work and never ask the person to purchase.  They gave you their time, they answered your questions, they listened to your pitch, but you never asked them to do anything.  You just through up a number, and hoped something would happen.

Don’t feel bad, everyone does it.  In fact, if you master this one element of sales, you are better than 90% of you competition.

Here’s how I know, let me tell you a story.

At one time, in my career, I worked for Progressive.  If you have any experience with them, they are intensely data driven, measuring everything that moves.  In order to get a better handle on agency impressions of the company, and develop better sales training, we initiated mystery shopping.  We would call out to agencies all over the country and ask for a quote, all the while holding a checklist in our hands, looking for sales elements.

This was a big effort, and we called everyone, all 30,000 agencies, from large professional shops, mom & pop agencies, and your non-standard specialists.

Over and over again, we found one consistent feature, no one asked for the sale.  Only 10% asked.  We weren’t looking for a hard sale either.  Just a “when do you want to do this”, or “how does that sound to you”.

This is a big one, so listen to yourself, make a list of potential closes, practice them, put notes on your computer, your phone, the back of your hand, just don’t let yourself forget it, and you will be better than most.

2.  Making it all about price.

Okay, we know insurance has become a commodity right.  If the price is not there, then forget it.  When I talk and listen to friends in sales in other industries, they all say the same.  Their product has become a commodity, price wins.  No industry escapes this.

It would be foolish to believe price is not an option, but it can also be a hurdle.  Not for the customer, but for us.

I remember walking through the sales interview with a lady, entering all the information about her tI could gather, generating the quote, and almost choking when I saw the final price.

“No one would buy this!” I thought.  That is ridiculously expensive.

But because I was new and needed sales, I reasoned what the heck, let’s throw this price out there and see what happens.

Bucking up, and putting on my most enthusiastic voice, I announced the price, secretly waiting for a “Are you crazy?”, the rejecting sound of a click, or a polite, “I am sorry”, but to my surprise, she said it was good.  I scheduled a time to finish the sale, and did a secret little jig of excitement at my desk.

What did I learn?  What is a good deal to one person, may be entirely different to another.  Think about everything you purchase, do always buy the cheapest?  Even when you buy close to the bottom of price ranges, do you always have the best deal, couldn’t you spend a couple more weeks researching to find a better price?  You don’t.  Once the price hits the range you want, and the other benefits are there, you buy.

Price is important, but don’t let it sabotage you.

3.  Not knowing the game

Depending on your industry, every sales process has a game attached to it.  You just need to know it.  Usually it revolves around the customer pitting you against your competition to get a better price.

Here’s how I fell into this trap.  I was prospecting commercial customers, and got pretty excited, because unlike personal lines, I found most people were willing to give me an ear.  Most readily gave up their dec pages and xdates, hoping I had something better.

And many times, I did, but I didn’t make the sale.  I offered a product that had better coverages, and many times equal to lower price, but nothing happened.  No sale was made.  The customer wouldn’t even call me back.  I couldn’t get them on the phone anymore.

What happened?

They used me.

They took my proposal back to their current agent, and used me to get a better product and price.

This happens in every industry, but once you know the game, it is easier to combat.  It will change your approach on the front end.  You start thinking about your competition differently.  You ask better questions.  You frame your proposals better.

Knowing the game, lead me to correct this last mistake.

4.  Not developing relationships and prequalifying properly

The sales process is a lot of work.  Even in personal lines, when you have a comparative rater, and you have learned to fly through the quoting process, you still don’t want to grind out quote after to quote never to close.

That’s like the old prison torture story.  Today the guards make you dig a hole on this side of the yard.  Tomorrow you fill it in.  The next day you move to the other side to dig, then the following you fill it in.  That’s enough to drive a person mad.

Nothing is worse than useless work serving no purpose than to keep you busy.

Change your approach.  Don’t sale, don’t quote, don’t spend time on a customer, until you spend some time evaluating the situation.

Is their incumbent agent their brother or mother?  Forget it.  You aren’t going to win.  Is the customer a fraternity brother with their current agency’s owner?  Chances are bad for you.  But you won’t know this until you ask questions.

Ask as many questions as you need about their relationship with their current agent.  Look for strengths and weaknesses and find a wedge where you can create a relationship.  Perhaps, you can teach them something they never knew about their business or risk situation.  Maybe you have common friends or interests.  Listen to them, and if there is any crack in their current agent relationship, find ways you can offer value the other can not.

This is my list, and I hope it helps you avoid my traps.

Look at your process, look at what your staff does, and see if you can find each of these elements.  Then work toward eliminating these common mistakes.

Are there other sales sins you have committed? 

 
Be Productive,

Theron Mathis
 

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Why You Need Google Plus and How to Get Started Today

medium_6714960287Why do you need a Google+ page?  I get asked by agents on a regular basis about where to start online marketing.  To be honest, I am biased toward Facebook and Content Marketing through blogging.  I really believe if you have someone in your office that can be committed to curate and create content, and your current website allows you to post content (if not, please change) do it.  Content marketing has the ability to let you compete against big marketing insurance budgets.  You can dominate search in your geography and become an expert in whichever insurance niches you write.

I love Facebook because I know it.  It was my first social network, and I have helped agents setup pages, find content, create contests, etc.  Even if your agency is not on Facebook, I guarantee the majority of the people in your office are on FB, and everyone has a basic familiarity with it.  The learning curve is small because someone you know, if not yourself, knows and understands Facebook.  All you need to do is to learn the marketing side and adapt to your business.

Over the last couple months, I have seen the power of Google Plus.  It is incredibly versatile, feels more professional, and engagement is easy.  I found creating active engagement on G+ is much easier than it is on Facebook.  

So why should you have a G+ page?

1.  It is Google.  You can’t fight city hall.  If you spend any time in online social media circles, you are bound to find people announcing and celebrating the demise of Google+, however, these voices are dying out.  

Google will not let this network die.  It continues to grow.  They have integrated a Skype-like feature called Google Hangouts that allow group video chat.  Functionality continues to increase.

Admit it, when you search on the web.  You probably go to Google, and if you don’t you call web-searching “googling”.  They own search, and being part of their system will only help you.

2.  SEO, SEO, SEO.  If you don’t know this term yet, it stands for Search Engine Optimization.  Basiclly it the practice of doing things online that will help your customer find you.  When people search for you, what you sell, and where you sell, can they find you online.

Sadly, many of agents I work with can’t even be found online even if their name is entered into the search bar.  Google+ can change that and change it quickly.

Google places G+ activity into their search results, and probably gives greater weight to this network versus posts created in other networks.

3.  Your activity will have wings, and won’t die quickly.  If you post on Facebook, you must post frequently, primarily because your post only has a shelf-life of about a day.  After that people will no longer see it.  It won’t show in their news feed anymore.

With Google+, your posts become part of search, and live longer on the web.

I have seen this for myself.  Weeks after I have posted on Google+, I can still get traffic from that post.

 How do you start?

Ok, now that you are convinced that it is worth jumping into this network, how difficult is it to setup a page.  It’s incredibly easy.  I just set one up for one of my agent’s in about five minutes.

  1.  Go to Google+ for business.  

google plu

2.  If you don’t have a Google account then you need to create one.  Basically, you are just setting up a Gmail account.  This is not hard, and the system will prompt you how to do it.

3.  Add a profile photo if you have one, but this is not necessary for the page.  

4.  Choose your category.

Google plus create a category

 5.  Add Info.  Post basic information about your business including office hours, and you are finished.  

 Google gives you the ability to share your page with contacts, and this could help jump-start your network.  

If you don’t have G+, run, don’t walk to your favorite browser and set it up!

Be Productive,

Theron Mathis

P.S. Bonus Content:  Having the G+ page will help, but ultimately if you decide to make this part of your ongoing social media marketing, you need to post.  Here are a couple extra tips:

1.  Multiply your work.  If you are using a social network today, like Twitter or Facebook, replicate those same posts on G+.

2.  Streamline your posts.  Use a scheduler to get your posts from one spot, to multiple networks.  I use and love buffer.  Buffer let’s you post something once, and then it schedules the posts for you on various networks.  With Buffer, you can use Facebook, Twitter, and now Google+.

3.  Suggested Resources.  There’s a lot more you can do with G+ to create engagement and increase your brand presence.  The quickest way to pick up these skills is to check out Social Media expert and fellow insurance professional, Ryan Hanley.  He has written extensively about G+.

 

 

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